Nouhad Wadi Haddad (Arabic: نهاد حداد) (born November 21, 1935), famously known as Fairuz (Arabic: فيروز), is a Lebanese singer who is widely considered to be the most famous living singer in the Arab world and one of the best known of all time.
She was born in Jabal al Arz (Cedar Mountain) to a Syriac Catholic father and a Maronite mother, and converted to Greek Orthodoxy when she married Assi Rahbani, one of two brothers who helped shape her career.
Her songs are constantly heard throughout the Middle East region, and still spark Lebanese national pride. Here she is performing in France in 1979:
She was first noticed at the International Festival of Baalbek, where she performed many of her songs. She became famous after appearing on the "Lebanese Nights" part of the festival for many successive years.
By the age of ten, Nouhad was already known at school for her unusual singing voice. She would sing regularly during school shows and on holidays. This was how she came to the attention of Mohammed Fleyfel, a well known musician and a teacher at the Lebanese Conservatory, who happened to attend one of the school's shows in February 1950.
Impressed by her voice and performance, he advised her to enroll in the conservatory, which she did. At first, Nouhad's conservative father was reluctant to send her to the conservatory; however, he eventually allowed her to go on condition that her brother accompany her. That having been said, Nouhad's family as a whole encouraged her in her musical career.
Mohammed Fleyfel took a close interest in Nouhad's talent. Among other things, he taught her to recite verses from the Koran (in the Recitative style known as Tajweed). On one occasion, Nouhad was heard singing by Halim el Roumi, head of the Lebanese Radio Station and a prominent musician in his own right (also the father of the famous Lebanese singer Majida Roumi).
Roumi was impressed by her voice and noticed that it had a rare flexibility that allowed her to sing both Arabic and Western modes admirably. At Nouhad's request, El Roumi appointed her as a chorus singer at the radio station in Beirut and went on to compose several songs for her. He chose for her the stage name Fairuz, which is the Arabic word for turquoise.
A short while later, Fairuz was introduced to the Rahbani brothers, Assi and Mansour, who also worked at the radio station as musicians. The chemistry was instant, and soon after, Assi started to compose songs for Fairouz, one of which was 'Itab (the third song he composed for her), which was an immediate smash hit in all of the Arab world, establishing Fairuz as one of the most prominent Arab singers on the Arabic music scene. Assi and Fairuz were married on 23 January 1955.
Fairuz and Assi had four children: Ziad, a musician and a composer, Layal (died in 1987 of a brain stroke), Hali (paralysed since early childhood after meningitis) and Rima, a photographer and film director.
Fairuz's first large-scale concert took place in 1957 as part of the Baalbeck International Festival, which took place under the patronage of then President of Lebanon Camille Chamoun, and where she performed alongside the British prima ballerina Beryl Goldwyn and the Ballet Rambert. Fairuz was paid one Lebanese poundfor that show. Musical operettas and concerts followed for many years, eventually establishing Fairuz as one of the most popular singers in Lebanon and throughout the Arab world.